Original article was published by Beth Jochim on Artificial Intelligence on Medium
Experiencing Generative Art with Dutch artist Jeroen van der Most: Towards the Discovery of the Inner Self
Explorations of AI Art — Episode 01
[This interview has been previously published on Cueva Gallery’s blog on June 20, 2019]
“Science and art sometimes can touch one another, like two pieces of the jigsaw puzzle which is our human life, and that contact may be made across the borderline between the two respective domains.” — M.C. Escher
Art can change people in different ways and for those who are interested in more conceptual aspects of generative art, I reached out to Dutch artist Jeroen van der Most to discuss his work, creating an educational opportunity for all of us excited by the disruptive and creative potential of AI art. Jeroen is based in Amsterdam and combines traditional ways of making art with data, algorithms, and AI.
Van der Most’s art has been covered by most large Dutch newspapers and international media, and has been displayed in galleries and art fairs ranging from the Amsterdam KunstRai to the Affordable Artfair Hong Kong.
He graciously accepted to answer my questions, which I share in this piece.
Beth: Jeroen, could you guide us through the journey that brought you to incorporate Artificial Intelligence (AI) in your art?
Jeroen: Ten years ago, I used algorithms to do research projects. For example, to study how people interact on Twitter, or engage with visual imagery online. Interesting, but to me it lacked a creative aspect. I decided to experiment with using the algorithms in a more creative way. Finding that new balance between tech and creativity still fascinates me. A decade ago, the algorithms I used would probably be called AI. The definition of AI is always changing. From the algorithms came machine learning, and later deep learning based methods. I now use those.
Beth: You describe your art as “an exploration of the interplay between art history and technological progress”. What did you learn so far from the interaction between art and AI?
Jeroen: It’s impossible to answer this in a few lines. One lesson might be that AI does not change the purpose of art. It does change how we define art. Art should (imo) always inspire. That is what art is thought to be, for example a fixed object as a painting or later a movie or a simple generative process, is however shifting with AI. Nowadays, AI can offer continuously changing art forms that interact with their surroundings. That’s a cool technological innovation, but more interesting are the philosophical implications. It changes our ideas of what an art object is, but art also always is a metaphor for the self. The bigger picture is that AI and technology changes how we define who we are. Think for example of how AI makes us reconsider the differences between man and machine.
Beth: In your previous work “The age of Ultimation”, you envisioned fully Flexible Forms created by AI. How much of these ideas did you bring into your current work (to be launched soon), and how is this concept evolving? (Van der Most theorized that “The ease of creation by AI systems will lead to near infinite varieties of form and eventually a fully flexible form of art, adapting to- and interacting with its beholders based on a complete comprehension of the beholder and the surroundings.” [ https://www.jeroenvandermost.com/#/emit-age-ultimation/]).
Jeroen: In a limited way the generative systems I (and other artists) created in the past already are flexible. As they always change and might never be considered finished. I also experimented with some weird interactivity in the works, like reacting to shouting. I’m currently working on artworks in which these flexible components are further developed.
Beth: How do you think the general public is perceiving AI-generated art?
Jeroen: In my experience with presentations on the subject, half of people like it. The other half doesn’t and can get quite annoyed. I’ve seen some well-known artists getting angry about AI based art. That’s a good thing imo and yes, amusing. Art should always challenge what art is thought it should be.
“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.” — Lao Tzu
When it comes to democratize generative art, it appears equally important to provide the public with access to the “soul” of a genre that can be disruptive, both at a creative and imaginative level.
Art is a dialogue in progress between the artist and the spectator, and it is essential to relate to it. With artist Jeroen van der Most, we discovered more: AI based art can become an experience where we find the real self. It is a process to investigate and to make the inner self to emerge.
If AI does not change the purpose of art, it can change the definition of it modifying what an art object is (and metaphorically the “self”). AI can push us to reconsider the difference that occurs between humankind and technology, reshaping the concept we have of ourselves. This process can be reiterated, offer new insights and keep triggering questions.
The exhortation “Know thyself” (in Greek γνῶθι σεαυτόν) is an ancient Greek religious maxim inscribed in the temple of Apollo in Delphi. With this sentence the god Apollo warned men to recognize their own limitations. Nowadays we do not question oracles, but the intertwining between AI and art has the possibility of making us to reflect not only on the limits, but above all on the opportunities of growth also at a personal level.
If we keep feeding the connection between AI based artwork and spectators, hopefully people would become more and more ready to embrace AI based art, understanding its enormous possibilities and perhaps using it to reach more intimate and personal truths.
In the meantime, we will stay tuned and follow the work of this interesting artist. ∎